VL System Lost In Space LCD Display
Lost In Space LCD Display
For Providing Us With This FINE Product to Review
IBM PC compatible with USB port
If there?s one thing that sets modded cases apart these days, it?s a well positioned and well mounted LCD display. I'm not talking about a flat LCD monitor, but the kind of LCD that displays system information from CPU usage, other system resources, current Winamp songs, MotherBoardMonitor5 voltages, temperatures, and more! Nowadays, it seems like those old square windows which were cool in ?91 are becoming more abundant as the case modding fad continues. What a better way to set YOUR square window or even computer as a whole apart from other systems by custom-mounting a SICK looking LCD display!? If you have been a TwistedMods reader for a while, you've probably noticed that we?ve previously reviewed some of the larger names in the case modding industry, but don?t get me wrong ? LCDs have been around for as long as anyone can remember! Everything from car stereo systems, medical equipment, watches and even digital thermometers have always consisted of LCD displays ? so why would they become such a ?big outbreak? all of the sudden? As I said before, this is just a way to customize your modified case through the touch of a button and no tools! The biggest names in LCD manufacturing include CrystalFontz, MatrixOrbital, and who could ever forget BGMicro?! Some people may see the big names and look the other way in fear of complicated installation, expensive prices, and sheer complexity, but not all devices have to be that way! Today I am prepared to review an LCD unit that is not only easy to install, it is also easy to use, and user-friendly in general ? great for any ?newbie? who may or may not necessarily know what they are doing when it comes to electrical components! The company making this product is VL System who makes the new L.I.S. or Lost in Space LCD Indicator. When I first saw this product reviewed on various other Hardware sites, I could not resist requesting one, since I am a fairly big believer in LCDs. I am not sure what it is about LCDs that have me hooked; maybe it?s the unlimited possibilities or just the fact that it?s another great addition to any case. Since I noticed that our awesome sponsor, Case-Mod.com JUST restocked their supply of the L.I.S. LCD, I figured I?d move in to pop the big question. Surprisingly, Case-Mod.com accepted my offer and I received the unit on my doorstep less than a week later!
The first things that got me hooked on the Lost in Space LCD Indicator (LIS LCD) were the color options, as well as the fact that it comes pre-attached to a front 5.25? bay filler. Included in the shipping box of the LIS is the LCD unit attached to a front bay filler, installation CD, instructions, and a cable for hooking up the LCD to the USB/Serial ports. The Installation CD itself was fairly small; business card sized, in fact, and came packaged in a clear plastic protective casing. On the top of the CD were system requirements for the LCD unit as well as the manufacturer name and URL. Since I was a bit unfamiliar with VL System's products, I decided it might be a good idea to take a look at the instructions to allow for correct installation for this review. I did notice that on one side of the instructions, each step was written in Korean, a language which I tend to have trouble reading. After I flipped over the instructions, I realized that I?d find the set of English instructions here. I did notice that the installation instructions were fairly brief. In fact, I was more confused on the installation process AFTER I read the instructions than before. I know that the hardware install instructions for the unit included nothing more than ONE jumper setting on the back of the LCD. Other than that, I was not told how to hook up power or data cable. This could EASILY confuse newer users who are not so LCD-oriented. I later figured out that data and power were all sent through the same cable, but we?ll talk about that a bit later. From reading the instructions, I concluded that the manufacturer is more concerned about the software for the LCD than the LCD display itself. When 2/3 of the instructions include details on every single option in the included software, I tend to get a little bit worried. The included cable was a bit different than I am used to. The cable was about 3-feet long, and had a white, ?floppy disk? connector at one end and a serial AND USB connector, chained, at the other. After looking back over the instructions I soon found out that the USB plug is used to supply power to the LCDs for backlighting and displaying purposes, whereas the serial plug will be used for data transfer between the PC and the output on the display. When I say data, I mean the communication between the software and the display will be through the serial cable. I found this cable to be a bit more of a nuisance than a real helper because of the fact that you not only use up a serial port, but a USB port as well. I do not quite understand why VL System doesn't create their kits in a fashion that gives the option of supplying power through a computer?s internal power supply connectors. This is the most common method of supplying power to LCDs these days. Perhaps VL System may have thought that combining everything into one cord helps ease of installation, which it does, but it is certainly not the most convenient and efficient means?
The L.I.S. unit itself comes pre-attached to a 5.25? aluminum painted faceplate. In this review, we were able to get a BLUE LCD with an aluminum painted faceplate, but many other color options are available, including red and green LCDs with even a black faceplate. There are definitely a lot of options available for this product! On the front of the unit, the actual painted aluminum surface is covered by a piece of 1/8? Plexiglas. It kind of reminded me of the faceplates seen in a couple of pre-modded Skyhawk Aluminum cases on the market today. In each of the faceplate?s corners are brass ?tacks? which help hold the Plexiglas in place as well as the PCB on the backside of the faceplate. Personally, I think the brass-on-aluminum look gave the unit a bit of a ?thrown together? look, whereas a chrome or even brushed aluminum tack would have looked much cleaner! To the right of the unit are two aluminum push buttons. The top button, (labeled ?Power?) turns the characters being displayed on and off while leaving the blue backlighting on. The second button (labeled ?Light?) is located directly below the first, and turns the blue backlighting off and on. Even with the backlighting off, you can still see the lettering. I found these two options a bit strange; not necessarily bad but definitely unique. I have never really seen an LCD unit which enables you to turn it off and on through a control panel on the front; this adds a great amount of flexibility, especially since you can turn the backlighting off, making the LCD look somewhat close to a calculator?s LCD display. The only other thing on the front of this unit is the writing found between the aluminum faceplate and the Plexiglas cover. The writing on the silver faceplate comes black, and the Lost In Space logo appears on the top left corner. Below that, the company?s logo is displayed. Overall, the front of this unit remains very clean and professional looking. No obnoxious flaws or defects were found on the unit, even after close inspection. Taking a look at the side of the unit, I was immediately able to see that installation would be fairly easy. Pre-drilled holes on each side of the faceplate will allow for easy installation on either drive rails or a normal 5.25? device bay. Also, from the side of the unit, you can see how thin the Plexiglas attached to the front faceplate is.
The specs on the actual LCD display which makes up the majority of this product can be seen in the list below. I figured it?d be easier to pick out basic information this way. You will notice how VL Systems did not seem to include much information on the actual LCD, as MatrixOrbital or CrystalFontz typically does. These specs are directly from VL System's information page on the ?L.I.S. LCD Blue Platinum.?
Pentium II CPU and 64MB RAM or above is recommended
More than 4MB hard disk drive space is required
Windows O/S such as WIN98/ME, WIN NT/2000/XP
What about the poor Unix/Linux users?! I guess you have to tune out at this point if you are a die hard *nix fan. The current software made for this LCD does not support your favorite operating system. If you're a crack programmer, however, you should be able to whip up something that will allow you to use this display. Heck, if you do, send me the program and we will be glad to update the guide with a link to your *nix software for the LCD! Below you will see the actual display controller?s specifications. Again these were taken directly from VL System?s information page on the ?L.I.S. LCD Blue Platinum.?
L.I.S. Controller Size: 74mm x 33mm
Communication/Data Method: Serial Com Port (9pin ? RS232C)
LCD Communication Speed: 19200bps, 8bit (full), 1 stop bit
4 Line Interface Method: GND, 5V, RX, RX
Power Supply: +5 volt DC power (USB connector)
Supporting LCD: Character STN LCD (Hitachi HD44780 Compatible)
Colors Available: Red, Blue, Green
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